MSNBC president: “We’re beginning to chip away at Fox News”

posted at 3:25 pm on August 3, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Fox News leads TV ratings on a weekly, quarterly and yearly basis, but MSNBC president Phil Griffin says MSNBC has begun to carve a little place for itself in cable news. The Hollywood Reporter gives the details:

MSNBC president Phil Griffin has his sights set on Fox News. Griffin opened the network’s presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour here by noting that this year, MSNBC has surpassed perennial cable news leader Fox News in the ratings in multiple hours. The previous year, MSNBC did it once.

“It just gives you an indication of where we’re going,” said Griffin. “For the first time we’re beginning to chip away at Fox News Channel.”

First of all, I have to admire the guy’s optimism. A few hours amount to peanuts in the 24/7 cycle — but, still, good for Griffin for finding something to celebrate. But the really interesting part of his presentation came later, when he disputed the popular notion that MSNBC is just the liberal version of conservative Fox.

“I don’t see an equivalency between us and Fox News,” Griffin said. “There are no talking points. We don’t sit around and discuss how we’re going to cover any particular issue. That is something that you have to take account of when you compare the two of us. I just don’t see the same equivalency. I do say that we have a progressive attitude.”

The clear implication, of course, is that the folks at Fox do sit around and discuss how they’re going to cover a particular issue. Has Griffin watched Fox News? He ought to know how regularly the top two talk show hosts on FNC — Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — disagree with each other. Are they both conservative? Yes. Do they think alike on every issue? No. Rather like Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews on the left, I’d wager.

What’s so refreshing about O’Reilly and Hannity is how openly they own their biases. You won’t hear any pretense to objectivity from Hannity of the sort Maddow delivered in the same Hollywood Reporter piece.

“I think it’s easy to characterize us versus Fox, but I really don’t think we live up to the caricature,” said Maddow, adding that she’s done positive coverage of former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s stance on climate change, for instance.

“They don’t know what to do with that [story at Fox News]. Neither Phil nor any other executive is telling us what to think of climate change. [Fox News] really are pushing a party line. Not every host. But I think we’re more unpredictable.”

Funnily enough, it bothers me that Maddow is trying to brand MSNBC as “unpredictable” far more than it bothers me that MSNBC actually is progressive. At least Griffin said the channel operates from a “progressive attitude.” That owning of bias is to be applauded.

Because here’s the deal: So what if every host on TV openly pushes an agenda – if everybody watching is keenly aware of it? Are viewers at any disadvantage as they sort out the information biased hosts provide? What host is not biased?

What protected objectivity in the past, supposedly, were systems — neutral, open-ended interview techniques, scrupulous fact-checking, rigorous copy-editing, etc. Yet, bias still crept in. Of course it did. As human beings with thoughts and opinions, reporters couldn’t help but subtly influence their coverage. The new model that’s emerging is even more honest than the old — one in which reporters strip away their own self-delusions and acknowledge the principles that guide their thinking. True, this new model requires more from the reader or from the viewer. It demands that information consumers seek out a diversity of sources, ask questions, engage the material — and it offers no guarantees that consumers will do that, leaving open the possibility that some citizens would prefer to live their lives in an echo chamber of reassurance.

That last bit is troubling to anyone who values truth — but recognized as inevitable to anyone who values freedom. Not everyone will use freedom of information wisely, but that doesn’t mean reporters should again wall up the facts behind the “gate” of “objective” journalism, not even for the sake of the ignorance-is-bliss security that seems to have accompanied watching Walter Cronkite on the news every night and never knowing what information wasn’t presented.

Update: Incidentally, I’m not the only person who has come to this conclusion. Check out the great work of Timothy Groseclose, a political science professor at UCLA and the author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. Groseclose thinks we’d be better served if every reporter — and not just talk show hosts! — identified what Groseclose refers to as his or her “political quotient.”


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Frankly, I would be interested in seeing how many people watching MSNBC are conservatives watching to see just what the insane Left is up to lately.

Too bad no one keeps that kind of statistic.

rspock on August 3, 2011 at 10:50 PM

NewsBusters has a post up this afternoon about how a guest on this morning’s Cartoon Show for Democrat Welfare Mothers, AKA “The View”, had a guest on who falsely claimed that Rush Limbaugh originated the term “Magic Negro”.

No one on the panel challenged her on the lie, in fact Joyless went along with it.

Del Dolemonte on August 3, 2011 at 3:43 PM

That was actually one of the hosts, Sherry Shepard.

And Rush, with his usual aplomb then played “Barack the Magic Negro” again in her honor.

Jvette on August 3, 2011 at 10:53 PM

leaving open the possibility that some citizens would prefer to live their lives in an echo chamber of reassurance.

Yep, that’s me. After a half century of being forced to watch liberal nutjobs, I’ve earned the right to boycott the MSM..

HellCat on August 4, 2011 at 3:50 AM

O’Reilly. What a piece of work. On any given issue, he points to his left and yells “Extremist!”, point to his right and yells “Extremist!”, then declares wherever he is standing to be the “reasonable center”. It is pure cowardice masquerading as opinion, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

As for MSDNC, it’s easy to understand that when your compass is broken, you might mistake LEFT for Forward. There is only one direction anyone at that network is leaning, they just don’t realize which way they are facing. When you work so hard to pull opinion to the Left, that the only Forward you can imagine.

But that’s just it, and it’s the entire difference between liberals and real humans. Their worldview is based on imagination, not the concrete facts as they exist.

Freelancer on August 4, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Hey! I hear there’s a new news show on Current TV with a host that just might be what MSNBC is looking for. They should check him out. I think he was a sports anchor once.

That’d get FOX news on the run!

rihar on August 4, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Frankly, I would be interested in seeing how many people watching MSNBC are conservatives watching to see just what the insane Left is up to lately.

Too bad no one keeps that kind of statistic.

rspock on August 3, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Its shear hack comedy gold. Reality TV in its infinite irony. Oh gosh I so miss Nancy P. Oh yeah Debbie Wasserman is great too but was not “the word” Nancy a constant”Not Ready For Primetime Players” skit in the making?

I complain only because their violent riotus rhetoric geniunely frightens me. But that aside is not their bizarre behaviour amazing?
I watched Charlie Rose lean in one night to a guest and in a bedazzled whisper (and I have to paraphrase-can’t remember verbatum), “Obama. Isn’t he woonderful!? How can we get ‘those’ people to realize this?”
Oh move over Snooki… Hey! Snoop and Snooki weeknights at 8:00 on MSM. Oh Bill’d be hurt’n then. I’D NEVER MISS THAT!
Fox, be afraid. They’ve got my number. Be very afraid.

onomo on August 4, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Remember Connie Chung? She was black balled from the news for about two years for answering the question, “How do you know what news to report”, Her answer was, “We run it through the White House first”.

mixplix on August 4, 2011 at 2:37 PM

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